Meet Gitanjali Rao, a researcher, innovator, inventor, and teacher. Gitanjali has been given opportunities to spend time on STEM projects but recognized that not all students have this opportunity, so she set out to change this by creating an outreach program and writing and publishing a book in hopes of “finding the hundreds of other Gitanjali’s out there” as she puts it. She writes,
“Today’s education around the world focuses on core skills but doesn’t train students in connecting concepts across disciplines, ideation, and solutions, critical skills that are needed to solve problems of tomorrow. I have found through my experience, children in schools, when trained right, explore ideas better and are not bound by constraints. Also, many of today’s problems, from climate change to privacy, are going to directly affect children when they grow up. It is only logical that they are part of the solution. Hence, I’d like to develop a K-12 curriculum that simplifies the methods and tools of ideation, with the right reward system, so that innovation becomes a learning experience and students can be free to imagine solutions for today’s urgent problems. I see a need to create an innovation movement among school students across the globe, where ideation, innovation, and problem-solving are not limited to science fairs and privileged schools, but are a part of the regular curriculum. I have covered some distance in my journey, but still have a long path ahead, as I build my own skills in research and problem-solving.”
Gitanjali saw a problem not only in her community, but around our globe, and has taken it upon herself to make a change.
“My work broadly involves 2 main areas, research/innovation, & educational outreach. They are symbiotic and complement each other to achieve the end goal of developing my solution. Within my research initiative, I have developed a few products such as a patented lead detection in water, early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction, and launched an anti-cyberbullying technology service in partnership with UNICEF. While working on these, I developed a process to take a solution from an idea to reality, that is proven and repeatable. In the spirit of developing a community of innovators, I started sharing this with my community peers and received excellent feedback. A peer student-led session proved to be effective in environments across the globe. The workshop supplemented any efforts to introduce innovation and social empathy earlier in a student’s education. I started with 10-12 students and slowly expanded it to 300 students per session. Today I conduct about 3-5 sessions a week with about 200 students weekly. I take feedback on them and have been continuously improving the interactive nature of the sessions so that at the end of it, the students have an idea, solution, and a process with them to refine on their own.”
Gitanjali is building a better future before our own eyes, and bringing others along with her to do the same. We were honored to name her one of our 2023 Build a Better Future Scholarship recipients and we are excited to see where her future endeavors take her.